Famous choreographer brings professional experience to new dance club


BP Photo by Rose Julis

STARS: Junior Sheyna Schusterman danced her scene in the Wildfire Theater May 9 while being professionally videotaped, a first for Shalhevet dancers. The Dance Club’s teacher is Erica Klein, famous for modern dance choreography on television and social media.

Technicolored lights illuminated the dancers, as one by one each was absorbed in the whirlwind of a new experience. Soon after warming up and practicing, each member of the new Shalhevet dance club got a chance in the spotlight, as a professionally videographed and choreographed dance was recorded May 9 in the Wildfire Theater.

They’d only had one chance to practice — at their prior meeting in April — and now each girl was given a minute or less to complete her segment of the dance to the song “Movement,” by Hozier.

Potential mistakes were taken into account by giving each girl two chances in front of the camera.

The video has now been finished and sent to Mr. Weslow, and will be sent to just a few administrators who were involved with planning and sponsoring the club. It will not be released publicly because club members thought it was too personal.

Sheyna Schusterman, co-founder of the dance club, said it was worthwhile anyway, because it showed the members how filming was done in the professional world. It was the first professional dance recording any of them had made.

“Having the camera follow you around was kind of nerve-wracking, but that could be because it was new for all of us,” said Sheyna. “We appreciated it at the end, because we got to experience this big part of what it’s like to be professional dancers.”

The new dance club was formed this year so students with previous dance experience could receive private lessons and professional guidance at school.

MOVEMENT: Senior Adira Waldman performed Erica Klein choreography for the camera. The videotape will not be widely shared because the dancers consider it too personal. BP Photo by Rose Julis

The girls’ teacher was the well-known modern dance influencer Erica Klein, who has worked as a choreographer on Jennifer Lopez’s World of Dance TV show and has a huge social media following — more than 240,000 followers on Instagram. Jon Hernandez, a videographer who often works with Ms. Klein made the recording.

The club’s co-founders, Sheyna and fellow junior Danya Helperin, had long wished they could dance at school and decided to be proactive and create something of their own.  

“I’ve always been dancing outside of school,” said Danya, “and although this school has all of these other types of arts programs like journalism, visual art, film club, and drama, it doesn’t really have dance. So I felt sort of a lack of representation, and I wanted to sort of bring my two worlds together.”

Practice was held once a month for four months in the theatre. Other club members are Eva Suissa, Nooria Kerendian, Shira Weinreb and Aviva Waldman.

With so few people, they had more time to notice and work on each of their struggles, they said. That was also meaningful to Ms. Klein — who said teaching at Shalhevet was different from her usual classes, which have hundreds of people and many different levels of ability.

Seven kids is literally the smallest class I teach, but it’s really cool because I’m able to give every person corrections and actually watch them

— Erica Klein, choreographer and Dance Club teacher

“Working with seven kids is literally the smallest class I teach, but  it’s really cool because I’m able to give every person corrections and actually watch them,” said Ms. Klein in an interview with the Boiling Point.  “I’ve never really had those smaller private classes.”

Ms. Klein is also known for being featured in Elliot Moss’ well-known music video, “Without the Lights.” As seen in many postings on Youtube, her work combines a graceful fluidity with sharp, almost jerky motions and facial expressions that give her dances a theatrical feel.  

She attributes her success to her ability to make contemporary dance — which she said was usually only appreciated by those within the dance industry — accessible to a

BP Photo by Neima Fax

general audience with the use of social media. She’s often on the floor, and every move seems to convey emotion.

Her videos feature many different photography angles and fast-motion editing.  

“Contemporary doesn’t read very well on camera — no one really understands it, it’s kind of too slow and too artsy,” Ms. Klein said. “I found a way to make contemporary work on social media video-wise and also commercially, giving it more interest to the general public instead of just artsy dancers who like contemporary.”

Sheyna said it was Danya’s dad, the musician Robby Helperin, who made the connection with Ms. Klein, though he didn’t know her beforehand.

“A lot of the time I spent at Danya’s house, we would have conversations with her dad about how Shalhevet should have a dance club,” Sheyna said. “To be completely honest, her dad came up to us and sort of asked us, like hey, would you girls be interested in doing something like this?”

Mr. Helperin asked Danya and Eva Suissa who their dream teacher would be and they agreed on Erica Klein. Ms. Klein’s career took off after she was featured on World of Dance, and she currently teaches at dance complexes TMILLY and Millennium dance in Los Angeles.

“My dad was like, we have to shoot for the stars,” said Danya.

An email and phone call were all it took — partly because Mr. Helperin mentioned that the club would be for a Jewish school. Ms. Klein, it turned out, was very interested.

“Randomly, like a few minutes into the conversation, he mentioned that he was Jewish,” said Ms. Klein. “And I was like wait — what, did you guys even know I was Jewish?

“I just felt more excited, more inclined I guess, be

MEET: Organizers Mr. Robby Helperin and Yoetzet Atara Segal met with Ms. Klein to plan the club’s first season. BP Photo by Rose Julis

cause I never really see people that are Jewish in my life, because the dance world is not very Jewish.”

Club members thought decided as a group not to send their video out publicly.  And some of the dancers asked not to be included in it at all, though everyone was recorded.  Danya said Admissions Director Natalie Weiss, Yoetzet Halacha Ms. Atara Segal, Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal and Judaic Studies Principal Rabbi David Block would be invited to see it.

She said dancers are naturally critical of themselves, and so publishing the video could have been embarrassing.

“That’s just the nature of artists,” said Danya. “If it’s not their best work, they don’t want to publish it… It seemed like something that should be for friends and family, not the world.”

Danya and Sheyna are still figuring out the probability of continuing the club next year and who would teach it.

“This is sort of a test run,” said Danya.

Ms. Klein is hoping it will continue, and include her.

“It just depends on everything, half them, half my schedule, but I love doing it so I’d definitely be down,” she said.